Did you miss the Socialympics 2? See how it all went down on Twitter through Storify
(Thanks to our friends at Jam for pulling this together)
By Ben Wilkinson on September 27th, 2012
Author archive for ‘Ben Wilkinson’
I’ve been pretty lucky over the past few years, working in sport and enjoying some incredibly memorable events. Maybe even the odd Welsh Grand Slam – certainly not the type of thing I was used to when I was growing up.
Indeed, I’ve been privileged to work on the Olympic Games, helping to plan and deliver BMW’s London 2012 vision. Sometimes I really do have to pinch myself.
You could argue some others are not quite so lucky. Some people are born without arms or without sight. Some suffer from debilitating illnesses that they fight for a lifetime. But some don’t think about it that way.
Today marks the start of what I think will be the most amazing and emotive event we’ve ever seen, in what has been the most amazing and emotive summer of sport. Today, the Superhumans begin the greatest show on Earth at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
As a nation, we’re fired up. We’ve developed a thirst for the most compelling of sporting stories. Tomorrow, when the action begins, we’ll be ready to lap it up.
Athletes will take to the field, pool and track ready to give it everything. Brands at London 2012 have shown great support to the Paralympic Games, but right now, I think one or two will realise they’ve missed out. Have they given it their all?
The next few weeks will define Paralympic sport in the UK and inspire a nation. It will challenge the way we think and the way we perceive disability sport. It will also show us the future in sponsorship.
Brands that have got it have been brave, they’ve trusted their instincts and they’ve exploded into a new space. This is the very essence of creating great creative sponsorship – brands that are prepared to step into the unknown and re-imagine the way they think and deliver.
So as we sit back to enjoy the lionhearts of Paralympic sport in action, we’ll also be experiencing a key part of the development for the future in sports marketing. The Paralympic Games will show that the brave come out on top; both on and off the field.
Full disclosure: Synergy works with BMW on London 2012
By Ben Wilkinson on August 29th, 2012
So, we’ve reached Day 14 of the Olympic Games with just the finale of the last weekend to go. It’s been an incredible few years building up to an almighty climax.
My role has seen me working at the centre of BMW Group’s London 2012 partnership over the past two and half years. It’s been fantastic and I’ll write more on the campaigns at a later date. For now I’ll focus on the Games more generally.
Of course there have been a million highlights, not least the fact Team GB have produced – if I had to isolate one thing that has driven the public’s passion, it’s surely the athletes’ performances. However, it’s not the only impact and the build-up has been vast. So, what have we learnt?
1. The public join late
After years of build-up, the nation were getting fatigued even before the Flame had been lit. But, as soon as the Torch began it’s merry way around the UK, Olympic passions were ignited.
2. Opening Ceremony
Danny Boyle created an intriguing and provoking show, celebrating the very best of British. Suddenly, a slow-burning flame turned into a fireball and the Games were well and truly alight.
3. Sport steals the show
Team GB started at a canter before ripping in to full throttle, and boy have they delivered. The last two weeks have created legends, as well as inaugurating a new generation of stars who will inspire the future of British sport. It’s the future that will be the key legacy discussion point after the Games and this is the open door for brands to step through. Many will try and only a few will prevail.
4. Brands build experiences
A lot has been documented about brands and their involvement in the Games. It’s clear the Games wouldn’t happen without partners’ support and the best brands have created some incredible touchpoints that have genuinely improved the experience, both in venues and across the UK. Look at the Live experiences, such as BA’s Park Live in the Olympic Park, BT’s London Live on Hyde Park and the live sites in major cities around the UK, being great examples. At a more intimate level, take a look at the mini MINIs, retrieving javelins, hammers and discuses in the Olympic Stadium, and just ask around for the number of people that want one. Brands play a huge role in the delivery of the games: financially, operationally and by adding creativity and experiences that help make the entire Olympic Movement in some way ‘better’.
5. London and the UK can do it
After years of question marks from the media and some members of the public, of course we delivered. Surely it was never in doubt. It’s been a mammoth task no doubt, but the greatest show on Earth just got even greater.
6. We found optimism
The biggest surprise to many is the surge in public pride and positive outlook that has swept the nation. I’ve been on the Tube with people talking, had people going out of the their way to help me and even seen security guards being friendly. Unheard of. The news agenda hasn’t just been dominated by sport, it has been just sport, which is massively refreshing…a small part of me is missing our sarcastic spirit, though.
7. Olympic Houses have been disappointing
Much was hyped about the experiences at the nations’ houses that have popped up all over London. I’ve managed to get to quite a few and despite the odd very good party, I’ve been pretty underwhelmed. The majority have that sterile airport lounge feel about them, with little in the way of culture or excitement. Of course, there is the odd exception, but maybe it’s because London is already blessed with art and culture from all corners of the globe? The Mayor and the GLA have done a fabulous job with different events, including projections and light sequences on many of London’s key landmarks, but I fear not enough people know about them.
Just some early reflections on what has been the best few weeks of my working life and…if Wales hadn’t won a Grand Slam recently, it could have been the best ever at a personal level too.
Enjoy the last few days and make the most of this time.
By Ben Wilkinson on August 10th, 2012
February saw us launch a major new campaign for BMW as part of our integrated work with the EngineDare team: an incredible series of short documentaries that celebrate BMW’s partnership with London 2012.
Synergy has been integral to the project since its inception, leading athlete and rights management and playing a central role in marketing integration; Engine’s creative experts WCRS created the films in partnership with leading British documentary directors and four of Great Britain’s finest athletes; and our friends at Dare built a YouTube channel to house the content.
On this project we have had the good fortune to work with exciting UK directorial talent, including BAFTA award-winning Asif Kapadia of ‘Senna’ fame, Richard D’Argues – creator of TT3D ‘Closer to the Edge’ – and ‘Fire in Babylon’ director Stevan Riley, to explore what it takes to takes to deliver ‘The Ultimate Performance’ on the world stage.
Each of the four films focuses on an athlete from the BMW London 2012 Performance Team, and is a unique insight into the parallels between BMW’s design, engineering and product expertise and the dedication of a world-class athlete. The films will be seeded over a four-week period on YouTube.
The first film to launch, ‘Man and Machine’, is a documentary by Yannakis Jones on the Paralympian David Weir and his relationship with his wheelchair. It explores how David needs to connect seamlessly with his chair to deliver his ultimate performance. At the same time it shows how the connection between the driver and the car is also central to BMW in delivering the ultimate driving experience.
The second video to be released features Olympic gymnast Louis Smith and the design team for the new BMW i8. This documentary is entitled ‘Form and Function’ and explores the similarities that exist between an elite athlete and a BMW designer who are both in search of perfection. The video offers an insight into how world-class performance in any discipline is driven by dedication and passion.
By Ben Wilkinson on February 24th, 2012
Tags: BMW, BOA, Branded content, Consultancy, Content, Digital marketing, Event management consultants, Event management service, Experiential marketing, Film, London 2012, London 2012 sponsorship, London 2012 sponsorship consultants, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Olympics, Sponsorship, Sport, Synergy, Synopsis, Team GB, YouTube
We all know the Olympic Games is coming to town. It’s getting closer and the clock is ticking, will we cope? Will the London Tube system handle all the extra people? How many medals will Team GB win? Anyone fancy a legacy? Will it make kids thin again? All those words are echoing around the UK media. I don’t have the answers.
But what I can explore is a new view, certainly to me anyway, as I’ve only had it about 5 minutes. London 2012 represents many things and has many hot topics, not least the L-word: Legacy. Defined as anything you want it to be, depending upon who you’re talking to, so I may as well chuck my own legacy-hat in the Olympic Ring…
Welcome to the world of collaboration
In marketing, we often discuss new platforms, will it be Facebook, Twitter, an app or something more traditional? But whilst all these platforms (and many more) have a huge role to play in the future for sponsorship, it’s finding better and more interesting ways to work together that will define the next generation of our industry. How will we combine the creativity and know-how across the marketing industry and beyond, to create truer forms of engagement and understanding?
What does this all mean for the Games?
For me, this is indeed the opportunity that smacks us in the face. I’m privileged to work for Engine, a place designed to create, embrace and accelerate the fast-changing collaboration process, which we leverage across all kinds of brands and all kinds of projects and campaigns. But London 2012 will, and is, enabling all types of cross-functional working, taking down barriers to make the best of British talent. Look at the architectural brilliance of the venues, the undeniably efficient construction projects, or how government and other public bodies are finding ways to work together towards a single goal.
We have the world’s biggest sporting event, in one of the most creative, digitally-savvy and energetic cities on the planet; I’m pretty sure an opportunity like this is rare. True, lots of us realise it’s coming and are grinding away to try and deliver something of marketing genius. Some of us certainly will.
But the opportunity to create truly integrated working — when we merge brains, disciplines or even industries — will have by far and away the biggest impact and lasting legacy on our industry. At least it certainly should do.
I believe we do ‘forced change’ particularly well in the UK. Take the recent and awful riots across London and other UK cities. It was something that no one anticipated or wanted to see, and yet, we’re already seeing huge change programmes implemented, from the top of government to tiny communities projects. Knee-jerk probably, but very much needed too. Change is vital to ensure these challenges are addressed, to give young people the opportunities they deserve to take a grip of their own futures.
In a very different way, the Games provides a similar vehicle to force change, the immovable deadline of London 2012 creates the pressure and dynamic environment to really make things happen. Decisions, teamwork, integration — none of these are optional and they have to happen, and quickly, to make certain the Games can be deserving of its title — the greatest show on earth. I say, embrace change, collaboration, integration — all of it.
Collaboration is a wonderful thing but, much like the old legacy word, it’s a very easy thing to say, much more difficult to put in practice. Our ongoing challenge is to continually challenge ourselves, to work together to make the cleverest, most creative and most integrated campaigns ever. Then afterwards? Keep on doing it, of course.
Not reading anything new? I completely agree, this thinking has been around for a long time. But — and it’s a big but — there’s a massive difference between thinking and doing. In the words of the most famous Olympic ambusher…
By Ben Wilkinson on August 26th, 2011
Recently, royalty has been back on the agenda in a big way – the Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge having engaged the nation – and this got me thinking about another monarchy-related expression: content is King.
If I were to say content is King, I certainly wouldn’t be the first, and most definitely not the last. So, I’m not going to say that, because: a) it’s too obvious and b) I don’t actually happen to believe it (which is probably far more important).
Ok then, what am I going to say? Content is important, most certainly, but I happen to believe where you put your content is as equally important as the content itself. In the modern world we might call this a bromance between two Kings: medium and message.
Like it or not, we live in a world of complex communication, a place where options are almost unlimited and wherever you turn someone is trying to engage you. In the marketing world this makes our lives increasingly more appealing – how do we target someone at the right place, time and price?
Targeting has always been a science, but if you overlay that science with the art form of engagement that we as marketers all crave, we suddenly create a complicated scenario where two separate worlds collide. And this is where it begins to get really interesting.
Why am I making this point?
Well, with such a complicated world, what’s the best way to reach your audience? It’s to tap into a passion point and create a content expectation that is authentic and helps you go beyond your brand to engage; sponsorship done correctly can be a hugely effective means to achieve this goal.
Of course, this is not new but what is evolving is how we can offer content of absolute relevance. We live in an instantaneous world and we no longer savour anticipation; that feeling of excitement of picking up your holiday snaps from the chemist, or waiting for that first phone call from a new girlfriend before the days of mobiles. Sadly, these things are in the past, we want our content right now – we wait for no one.
New channels can be invented overnight, Apple’s iPhone campaign with the line ‘There’s an app for that‘ created an (almost) brand new channel instantaneously – and as brands and content owners we need to be prepared for these additions to an already diverse and cluttered media offering. But this brings opportunity too, as we now have the ability to target like never before.
It’s a data-driven world – so now we can reach consumers by means never previously imagined. The digital world has enabled us to target our audience with military-like precision and this fuels huge opportunity across all sectors.
But what does this mean for sponsorship?
Sponsorship is born out of understanding of a target audience, their habits and their passion points. It is about matching people’s interests to brands and products in the most engaging of ways – through an emotive connection. In today’s market, it presents an incredibly powerful content platform to connect with your audience. It’s certainly not a simple art, but for me every partnership strategy should put content at its heart.
Who’s doing it well?
The evolution of brand content has developed so quickly in the last few years, it’s now part of nearly every (good) strategy. There are some great examples out there and I’ve picked out some personal favourites, but I think what makes this fascinating is the fact the content can be so different. It could be an app, it could be social or it could still be one of the more traditional routes. But, these examples all have some key common factors:
Nike has been a master of using endorsement for a long time, indeed the brand revolutionised the industry with the innovation of Air Jordan in the 1980s and is a strategy the still holds firm today (it was also the winner of our Greatest Sports Marketing Innovation Poll). For the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Nike created the Write the Future campaign; a fantastic example of putting the emotion of the Tournament at the centre of the brand’s content:
To promote its association with World Fair Trade Day 2011, Ben & Jerry’s has created a quite brilliant campaign to “Put your unused Twitter characters to good use”. Whenever users place a post on Twitter, the application turns any unused characters into a message about Fair Trade. It’s a brilliant cause and a really clever use of the Twitter platform, providing really valuable messaging to Fair Trade – this video explains the campaign far better than I can:
For the 2010 New York Marathon, ASICS USA put content at the heart of a new, innovative, experiential campaign for the event. The campaign centered around creating personalised supporter messages for runners from their friends and family to inspire them during the race. The messages of support were captured through social media and experiences in the build up to the marathon and then the messages were triggered by RFID tags (microchips on runners trainers) during the race. When the runners run over a sensor matt it triggered a giant LED screen which played personalised video messages from friends and family as the runners run past – genius.
Quite unusually for a rights holder, the ECB developed a great platform to help England fans follow the team throughout the recent winning Ashes campaign in Australia. The campaign had two key factors that contributed to its success: a) a victorious England b) Graham Swann – who has developed not only into the world’s best off-spinner, but must also be the most talented on-screen cricketer of his generation. His natural style in front of the camera and humorous banter helped make the films outstanding. The campaign was rewarded at the recent Sports Industry Awards, taking home the award for Best use of Digital Communication in Sport.
So, why are these great examples of content?
At the heart of all of the above campaigns is relevance; to both the brand and the audience. Good sponsorship strategy is based on connections and in all these examples it really shines through.
Looking more deeply, we can see that five key principles ring true to each example which should be applied to every sponsorship content strategy:
But what creates great content?
Like almost everything else, great content is about innovation. It’s about finding something that connects and resonates with your audience and providing it how they want it, when they want it. Sure, major players in the media landscape (broadcasters and publishers) are continuing to get the lion’s share of audience, but will it always be this way?
I take an analogy I read in the Economist recently; people said the horse manure crisis in London in the 1890s would lead the city’s demise within 20 years. What they didn’t know then, was that Karl Benz would invent the motor car which made the theory obsolete, but Karl himself was also wrong. He claimed demand for motor cars would never get above a million because we would run out of chauffeurs.
The point being that content, in the connected digital world, is only just beginning and some of the innovations of the future could really start to shape a new world of content. Who’s to say brands can’t lead that?
So, is content really King?
All of the examples we have looked at demonstrate creativity and innovation which for me is the common theme for success. By combing a creative approach to the key content principles it can help create a unique and relevant content strategy for your audience. Content is a major component but it must be considered alongside context by creating a collaborative approach to medium and message.
So for me content alone isn’t King, but combined with context it can be. I’d love to get your views?
To wrap this all up, I just had to share this. We recently welcomed Google to Engine for a discussion around the use of Google platforms and products for brands and they shared one of their favourite campaigns: Converse Domination. It’s one of the best examples of a brand putting content at the heart of their campaign and is a true demonstration of the five key principles in action. From audience understanding, to having fun the campaign truly has it all. Enjoy!
By Ben Wilkinson on May 18th, 2011
The sports world was out in force to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sports Industry Awards last week. It was a great occasion and we’re delighted to have been recognised for our work with Bupa and the Great Run Series.
The Sports Industry Award judges had this to say on the campaign:
Bupa’s sponsorship of the Great North Run was an ideal platform to demonstrate the brand’s status as a leader in healthcare, whilst also enabling it to build relevance and familiarity through a number of different touch points. Bupa developed a new brand positioning using the ‘Bupa: with you every step of the way’ strap line. This included the launch of the ‘Bupa Run Check’ – a service for runners with sports physiotherapists providing bespoke diagnostics & advice.
The brand also undertook a pre-race engagement campaign, utilising a specially created running website, engagement with the Great Run database and an editorial partnership with The Telegraph Media Group to showcase its expertise. The campaign results backed up the judging panel’s view that Bupa had optimised the perfect brand fit between the two entities to the best of its ability. According to Hall & Partners research, 51% of those questioned stated that the sponsorship gives them a better impression of Bupa while 74% of runners added that the ‘Bupa Boost Zone’ presence on race day enhanced their experience of the event.
The Bupa Boost Zone
Naturally we’re absolutely delighted and I’m sure it was a great honour for Kirsty Gallacher to meet me and handover the crown!
By Ben Wilkinson on May 18th, 2011
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By Ben Wilkinson on March 23rd, 2011
What happened? The Orange BAFTAs took place took place on Sunday 13 February 2011. The sponsorship is well established and for 2011 the brand once again created an interesting and engaging sponsorship activation campaign. Below follows the brief highlights of the 2011 campaign.
The Flickometer is a really visual adaptation of a Twitter Cloud to show real time content from the film nominees on the social media platform as they happen.
2. Orange Wednesdays
It’s now pretty well known and has been a major feature of the Orange Film strategy since 2009. It’s still a major asset and providing a major consistent connection for Orange customers throughout the year with the two-for-one offer every Wednesday – complemented by brand partnerships with likes of Pizza Express for an even more complete two-for-one experience. The concept is also integrated on the evening of the Orange BAFTAs including the Orange Wednesday’s red-carpet, hosted this year by the fabulous Rachel Stevens.
3. The night itself
How could you miss the night itself, with glamour and style by the bucket load, every film lover in the land was tuned in to watch a great evening of TV entertainment, which led to huge national media coverage.
Why we love it: The campaign was integrated with through the line activation across many different levels – from the top of the spectrum at the Orange BAFTAs themselves, right down to through consumer touch-points with two-for-one cinema tickets. The campaign is not new, but each year has been injected with an energy and vibrancy that is too often missing in long-lasting sponsorships (obviously this needn’t be the case). Orange has become a really credible brand in film.
Of course, a great brand platform needs to be backed up with fantastic activation and Orange did not let us down.
By Ben Wilkinson on March 17th, 2011
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